The Mahabutas

In Sanskrit, "mahabhuta" means great element

Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA) is a beloved childhood TV show that has not only made a comeback on Netflix but also resulted in a spin-off series, The Legend of Korra. The plot of this franchise is mainly based on the idea of “bending,” which is using Chinese martial arts telekinesis to control the four major elements: earth, water, fire and air. Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine are closely interlinked, but there are a few differences…

The five elements of Ayurveda are as follows:

  1. Akasa = space

  2. Vayu = air

  3. Agni = fire

  4. Soma = water

  5. Prthvi = earth

These mahabhutas determine the constitution of everything in the physical world, including our body type aka dosha. If something goes out of equilibrium, the opportunity for illness and disease arises. Each of the elements also correlates with one of the senses.

The five senses:

  1. Sabda = sound

  2. Sparsha = touch

  3. Rupa = sight

  4. Rasa = taste

  5. Gandha = smell

And so…

  • space ~ sound

  • air ~ touch

  • fire ~ sight

  • water ~ taste

  • earth ~ smell

The earth and water elements make up the foundation of all food and the fire, air and space elements provide flavor. More on this concept in a later post.

Source: Lad, Vasant. The Textbook of Ayurveda, Volume One. The Ayurvedic Press: Albuquerque, 2002.